This fall and winter have been a tough slog here at Rancho Deluge. Why just the other day the sun came out and everyone thought it was just another exploding meteorite. Alas, when we finally did locate the sunscreen it was all for not, not even a rainbow to mark the occasion. We were, however, thankful when our eyesight returned.
Springtime is when the vines wake up and we get back to work in the cellar. The Pinot Noirs and Syrah from that great 2012 vintage are just completing their Malo-lactic conversion, and the stainless steel fermented Chardonnay and Viognier are queued up for bottling. Meanwhile, the 2011 vintage Pinot Noirs are ready for blending trials. This really is the most rewarding part of winemaking for us, blending our single vineyard wines for complexity.
Throughout the growing season we are doing our best to grow our wines on the vine. We think of those grape skins as tannin packed flavor and aroma packets. Our job as winegrowers is to understand the style of wines we want to produce and take specific actions in the vineyard to shape the development of those flavors, aromas and tannins. “Human Terroir” if you will.
This means we pay attention to how much sun exposure the grapes receive by removing just a few leaves for air circulation, but leave enough that provide partial shade. We also thin off the wings that ripen later than the main cluster and can impart green or unripe flavors. The last, most important decision is always harvest. Once the sugars and acids are within acceptable ranges, we start to taste the berries. Specifically, we are tasting for skin development and monitoring the ripeness of the seeds.
The Back Story:
Once in the winery, we ferment some of the grapes on the stems. We also use the yeast they brought with them from the vineyard. This is known as whole cluster fermentation with indigenous yeast. We know that this fermentation style protects the character of the vineyard and will add stem tannin to the finished wine. This tannin is “alive” and will continue to develop character with bottle age. In the cellar we fill the wine into a combination of new and previously filled French oak barrels. We are also experimenting with Hungarian and Russian oak, but don’t tell anybody – it’s a secret!